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When it comes to eating carbs, most M&F readers know our stance: For the majority of your daily meals (except post-workout), you should choose the slow-digesting variety, such as most fruits, oatmeal, brown rice and whole-wheat bread. That’s because these carbs provide long-lasting energy and natural fiber, and prevent the fat gain that comes with faster-digesting carbs like white bread and sugar. Fiber is critical for bodybuilders, offering numerous physique and health benefits. Most notably, fiber can help you maintain better cardiovascular and gastrointestinal (GI) health.
Even if you’re a young guy who’s not all that worried about your ticker, having good GI health is vital if a better body is your goal. A well-functioning gastrointestinal system helps you absorb more nutrients, like amino acids from protein, which ultimately leads to muscle growth. Fiber also slows the digestion of carbs, which can provide a regular supply of energy, make you feel fuller longer, and keep your insulin levels low and steady. That not only means less chance of an energy crash but it also helps promote fat-burning and blunt fat storage.
Now the rest of the scientific world is catching on to our way of thinking regarding the benefits of whole grains. Just take a look at the products on the shelves of your local grocery store. Many advertise that they contain whole grains; even breads and cookies are exploiting the whole-grain craze. While this makes it easier to purchase bodybuilding-friendly foods, you need to look out for a couple of tricks of the food-marketing trade.
Food manufacturers will sometimes add a little bit of whole grains to their otherwise processed grain products so they can claim on the packages that the products contain whole grains. For example, most crackers are made primarily from processed white flour, so manufacturers add a bit of whole grains to the mix so they can write “made with whole grains” or “made with whole wheat” on the package. How do you avoid being a victim of this deception? If the package says “made with whole wheat,” you know it isn’t all whole wheat or it would simply be labeled “whole wheat.”
You can also take a look at the ingredients list. Remember, food manufacturers are required to list ingredients in order of highest to lowest concentration. In other words, the product contains the most of whatever is listed first. If whole wheat or whole grain isn’t the first ingredient, then you know the food was made with processed grains such as white flour, which is sometimes called wheat flour or enriched wheat flour.
There’s one more thing to keep in mind: A food package labeled “multigrain,” such as multigrain bread, is not synonymous with whole grain. A manufacturer can use multiple processed grains—such as wheat flour, corn flour and oats—and call the product multigrain. Although none of these grains are whole grains, the food is indeed a multigrain product. So again, take a look at the ingredients list and make sure the first item is some form of whole grain, whole being the key here.
Remember, while many food products make your bodybuilding lifestyle easier to maintain, many others try to mislead you. Do your homework and stay educated. We’ll keep you up to date on who’s giving you the whole truth and who isn’t.